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the column of lasting insignificance: November 30, 2013
by John Wilcock

The Greenwich Village Scholarship, 1963

(a JW column from the 1960s)

SO WHEN I inaugurated the Greenwich Village Scholarship last year, the idea in my mind was that all over America were college girls who couldn't make up their minds about Greenwich Village. Should they go back home and marry the boy next door, or was it possible that the way to truth, beauty, freedom, and opportunity lay among the Bohemian set?
    The scholarship offered the winning chick three days of parties, tours, coffee-shopping, guided exploration, and discussion in the Village, during which time she could match her image with the reality and, as they say, come to her own conclusions.
    Last year's winner, Amy Stone of Swarthmore, was chosen unanimously by the judges (Ted Wilentz of the 8th Street Bookshop; Art D'Lugoff of the Village Gate; and myself) on the basis of her letter listing the reasons why she felt such a visit to the Village would be beneficial. She had enjoyed herself, so presumably the visit was beneficial. Which brings us to the Greenwich Village Scholarship for 1963.
    In recent months it has become clear to me that there is a whole category of American womanhood that is even more in need of a Greenwich Village education than college girls. I refer, of course, to the underprivileged chicks now living in Manhattan's East 60s. They look beautiful, they dress beautifully, and their lives are a constant round of elegant artificiality. Their concept of the Village is of a seething snake pit -- exactly the view, in fact, that Villagers take of the tourist scene that such weekend visitors help to produce.
    Well, it's my view that such chicks are not completely beyond redemption, and while there is a chance to save them, I am willing to offer it. This year's Greenwich Village Scholarship -- an intensive round in the late November of Village life, parties, and subtle indoctrination -- is open to all Manhattan girls currently living a life of elegance. As long as they're not living it south of 14th Street.

Letters of application for the scholarship will be considered for the next two weeks, after which the judges' decision will be announced. Photographs and relevant background material should accompany all applications.
[from the Village Voice archives: November 7, 1963, Vol. IX, No. 3]

The Greenwich Village Scholarship (2)

The Greenwich Village Scholarship, despite the rather tongue-in-cheek way in which I presented it, was a serious attempt to show upper Eastside chicks that the Village is not the unwashed, unthinking collection of clichés that they had always imagined. By the same token, I expected that the winner of such a scholarship would contribute to Villagers' understanding of what is virtually another world.
    Numerous attractive entrants presented themselves -- mostly by mail -- and all would (and I hope will) benefit from further exposure to the good life south of 14th Street. By the terms of the scholarship, however, the most suitable recipient is obviously the entrant who misunderstands the Village the most, and for that reason all the judges (Art D'Lugoff, Ted Wilentz, and myself) agree that the anonymous writer of the following letter is the winner if she cares to identify herself:

"Your scholarship...reflects the snobbism of not only The Voice but the Village in general. You're all unbelievably smug about even your clichés. For years you have been trying to erect your own national flag, secede from New York City, and establish yourselves as a society of highest culture, intellect, and individualism... “Might I point out that although I dig the Village I see in it no great path to Truth, Beauty, Freedom, or anything similar? I have had it with beat poetry readings to 80-cent cafe au lait, orgies in East 12 Street lofts, ‘happenings’ that never happen, unmusical hootenannies, artsy-craftsy swindlers on West 4th Street, seedy Washington Square art shows, and five-hour arguments about Edward Albee.
    “In addition I've had it with the phonies: I am no longer intrigued with off-Broadway electricians named Jose who never remove their shades; NYU students in the lumber-Jack-Martin-D28-slung-over-the-shoulder uniform who are trying desperately to appear despondently decadent; decrepit painters of the 14-foot-canvas drip school supported by a woman who was never seen a skirt; one-time acquaintances of
David Amram who wear mu-mu's and eat only yogurt; the 45-year-old novelist about to be published who always writes under the influence of pot grown under his bed; self-proclaimed geniuses of the HB School, waiters at Figaro, the Gate, and the Limelight who pretend to be anything but; and perverted pseudo-intellectuals with horn-rimmed glasses and ascots who live by their talents of ridicule, cynicism, and insult. This is just to mention a few. To discuss the Zen Buddhists, Cuban revolutionists, black leotards, and Nietzsche worshippers would be to go too far.”

...All entrants will be invited to a scholarship party as soon as I can find a studio or loft big enough to hold it.
[Village Voice, December 19, 1963, Vol. IX, No. 9]

ENGLISH SOCIAL MORES have certainly changed over the years. I read in the paper that the names new owners were giving their homes had shifted from the once-proud Algernon’s Lodge or Weaver’s Cottage to the more captious, grittier Costaplenti, Stillowin, Stoneybroke, or Grotti Cottage. And deep in the Hampshire countryside, those innocent rural parish hall shows where once the art was by the vicar’s wife and the local art school—had been infiltrated. All the old naff favorites, from topless dancers to wave-lashed seashores, were turning up, the product apparently of hot-art sweatshops in Hong Kong. Or so the tabloids explained. (There’s always some unlikely story like this making the rounds, which, as often as not, turns out to be true).
    The Daily Mirror speculated that my opinions about England might be interesting after a 20-year absence and offered me $350 for such a piece. They clearly felt the results were too anodyne and at first declined to pay, although they eventually forked over $80 as a kill fee. In the unpublished piece I had written that the English were still so formal they wore collar and tie at the seaside and viewed with horror people who’d bought cars on the Continent to get foreign plates so they could drive around without getting tickets. To do this would be second nature to an American, I suggested, but many Brits were shocked. I asked why Britain was restricted to three channels when an obvious improvement would allow them as many commercial channels as technologically possible, and take 10% of all their revenues to finance the BBC. (Then they wouldn’t need that unfair and unpopular license fee).
    I decried the long hassle that major companies put you through to replace simple parts (I’ve always believed that The customer is always wrong is a fundamental English belief) and asked why if the English loved dogs so much they made it so difficult for visitors to bring one in. (It’s because they’re foreign dogs, a friend explained).

11/23/13

[JW is recuperating from a hospital stay.]


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